Microbes exert a surprising amount of control over our mind.
How the bacteria in your gut manipulate your sleep patterns.
Your gut microbes can affect your mood and your sleep patterns. Here are six ways to help you sleep better at night.
Your gut microbiota is brazenly giving you cravings to get what it wants.
These cravings may not be in your favor. Learn how to gain the upper hand.
How much influence do your microbes have over your choice of sexual partners?
It turns out that your microbiota has a surprising impact on your attractiveness and may even determine who you will fall for and who will fall for you. Learn how to harness that power!
In the first thousand days, proper brain growth depends on a healthy microbiota.
Early microbial disruptions can alter brain development, setting the stage for later mental illness. What happens in your first thousand days could change your mood for life.
Two studies show that important functions of your microbiota have less to do with specific microbes than the genes they possess. Time to toss your probiotics?
Yes, antibiotics are miracle drugs, but they have some quirks. Among them are unexpected interactions with the brain. Here are five surprising connections.
Microbial genes are inherited, and they help guide the formation of your immune system and the development of your brain.
Check out the Podcast:
One of the most amazing facts to come from psychobiotic research is that microbes can produce neurotransmitters, the chemicals that nerve cells in our brain use to communicate. We humans think quite highly of our brain, so the idea that bacteria could usurp the highly evolved chemistry of that pinnacle of protoplasm is shocking. But the data continue to pour in.
The latest, from an all-star team including Jack Gilbert, Rob Knight, Philip Strandwitz and Kim Lewis, finds that Bacteroides fragilis produces γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a major inhibitory neurotransmitter. Furthermore, that same GABA is necessary to grow the bacterial strain KLE1738, so naturally these two microbes form a tight bond.
You might assume that neurotransmitters, involved as they are with our magnificent brains, are complex molecules. But they are actually surprisingly simple chemicals that play a major role in all the kingdoms of life. No one is quite sure what good neurotransmitters do for bacteria, but they may act as signalling molecules similar to their job in brains. More enticingly, they may actually be trying to talk to us. The vagus nerve winds down from your brain and connects to all your major organs, including your gut. Are these neuro-enabled microbes attempting to communicate through the vagus nerve? And what are they trying to say?
A lot of the activity of psychobiotic microbes is pretty subtle, using hormones and cytokines, for instance. But using neurotransmitters is really grabbing the brain by its neurons. Are microbes attempting to control our behaviour? Do they squirt out a shot of GABA to make us feel better about eating foods they like?
This study introduces new techniques for discovering novel psychobiotics as well as demonstrating the tight co-dependencies that make microbiology difficult but exciting. We look forward to more studies like this that help us put a name to specific psychobiotics.